If California makes sense as a single industrial and ecological unit–if there’s one thing tying this entire sprawling golden entity together as a state of being–it might not be the government in Sacramento, but the California Water Project and the water flowing down through the Delta. You don’t hear that much about the California Delta, despite its being (as I wrote the other day) the “heart” of California. But there it is! Up from the ocean that gives the state its blue, down from the mountains that give the state its shape, into the bay, and down through the central valley’s almonds and avocado farms to the taps and swimming pools and grass lawns of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, with the Delta as its beating, pumping, sustaining heart.
The Delta is the hinge, the pivot, the heart, the spine… whatever metaphor you feel like using. And as you may know or you may not, that flow of water will always be imperiled by the natural disasters that bedevil this otherwise very pleasant state of being: earthquakes, floods, drought, and, of course, most fearsome of all, massive resource-grabs that benefit industry at the expense of whoever happens to live there.
I’m talking, of course, about The Tunnels.
Whenever Jerry Brown is governor, he tries to build some means of funneling the fresh water around the delta, some conveyance by which the pseudo-pastoral rivers and channels and canals and wetlands and reservoirs that collectively make the delta The Delta could be bypassed entirely. First it was a peripheral canal; then it was The Tunnels; most recently, it was OK Maybe Just One Tunnel. In each case, the problem is the same: if the Delta goes, so goes the water, so let’s go and find a Plan B.
And so, and only in the Delta, you see these signs everywhere: Stop the Tunnels. But you see them everywhere, from the moment you drive over the Carquinez bridge until you get to Sacramento, anywhere and everywhere this side of Lodi. You see them with a consistency of a local high school’s mascot in basketball country or candidate campaign posters in election time, on houses, on cars, in shop windows, and on signposts. You see them like the markers of local identity they are, the claim that the Delta is not, in fact, Plan B.
If the Delta makes sense as a single cultural unit–if there’s one thing tying this sprawling confluence of rivers together as a state of being–it’s definitely not the government in Sacramento, but the defiance of it, and of the California Water project’s effort to make the water flowing anywhere but through the Delta. But there they are…